The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee said Wednesday his committee will look into a report the U.S. spied on the Israeli prime minister and in the process swept up communications with Congress.
Republican Rep. Devin Nunes of California told The Associated Press that he’s asked the director of National Intelligence and the head of the National Security Agency to come to Capitol Hill next week to brief lawmakers on the matter.
A report in The Wall Street Journal said that even after President Barack Obama announced two years ago he would limit spying on friendly heads of state, the NSA kept watch on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and top Israeli officials.
In the process the agency caught some conversations with U.S. lawmakers, according to the report.
That’s something that would typically be reported to top congressional leaders and the heads of the House and Senate Intelligence committees, but Nunes said he recalled receiving no such notification.
He said his goal would be to “get the facts” about the situation.
“We’re going to play this right down the middle and determine whether or not somebody did something wrong,” Nunes said by phone from California.
Later Wednesday, the chairmen of the House Oversight Committee and its national security subcommittee sent a letter to NSA Director Michael Rogers requesting documents and a briefing about the process.
Reps. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., wrote that the Journal report raises “questions concerning the processes NSA employees follow in determining whether intercepted communications involved members of Congress, and the latitude agency employees have in screening communications with members of Congress for further dissemination within the Executive Branch.”
According to the Journal report, some of the exchanges in question involved Israeli strategy around the Iran nuclear deal that Netanyahu ardently opposed, as did congressional Republicans. In some cases the NSA overheard Israeli officials trying to convince undecided lawmakers to oppose the deal, which Congress ultimately failed to block.
The White House declined to comment on specific intelligence activities carried out by the U.S. But White House officials said the U.S. doesn’t spy overseas unless there’s a specific, validated national security reason to do so, emphasizing that the principle applies both to world leaders and regular citizens.
The U.S. intelligence community kept the relevant oversight committees in Congress fully informed about its activities, officials said.
And aiming to show that the security relationship between the U.S. and Israel remained unharmed, officials noted that a U.S. team had traveled to Israel this month to resume talks toward a new 10-year agreement on U.S. military aid.
“When it comes to Israel, President Obama has said repeatedly that the U.S. commitment to Israel’s security is sacrosanct,” said Ned Price, a spokesman for the White House’s National Security Council. “This message has always been backed by concrete actions.”
A planned visit to Israel by U.S. Republican hopeful Donald Trump is turning into one big headache for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The Israeli leader, widely seen as a supporter of the Republican Party, shares much in common with Trump. But cozying up to the GOP presidential front-runner is fraught with risks, particularly after his controversial calls to bar Muslims from entering the U.S. and comments to a Jewish group that some said bordered on anti-Semitic.
Late Wednesday, Netanyahu moved to contain any potential controversy, saying he rejected Trump’s comments about Muslims and that Israel “respects all religions.”
Netanyahu said he would be meeting Trump on Dec. 28, just as he agrees to meet any presidential candidate who visits the country, and that the meeting did not amount to an endorsement.
A visit to Israel is considered a rite of passage for U.S. presidential candidates as they seek to burnish their foreign policy credentials and appeal to Jewish American voters, and Netanyahu has hosted scores of candidates and elected American officials over the years.
But the visit by Trump is different.
The real-estate magnate and reality TV star has remained at the top of U.S. polls for months despite increasingly contentious statements that have alienated women, Hispanics, veterans and Muslims. Trump set off an uproar by calling for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the U.S. following last week’s mass shooting by a husband-and-wife pair of Islamic militants that killed 14 people in San Bernardino, California.
Over a three-decade political career, Netanyahu has sought to portray himself as the world’s foremost expert on Islamic extremism. Yet he has been careful to differentiate between extremist groups and the Muslim religion in general.
No stranger to controversy, Netanyahu came under heavy criticism early this year when he warned that Arabs were voting “in droves” as he made an urgent election-day plea to supporters. Nearly a fifth of Israel’s citizens are Muslim Arabs, and getting too close to Trump could risk triggering renewed accusations of racism.
“Overall, I think the prime minister would be happy if this visit would be canceled,” said Alon Pinkas, a former Israeli consul-general in New York.
“It puts him in a somewhat difficult situation obviously, not so much because of what Donald Trump has said previously about Muslims, about Hispanics, about women, about John McCain, but what he may say while standing next to the prime minister,” Pinkas said.
Opposition lawmaker Michal Rozin of the dovish Meretz party on Wednesday initiated a petition urging Netanyahu to condemn Trump’s “racist” comments and to cancel the meeting unless he retracts them. At least 37 lawmakers, nearly one-third of the parliament, signed the petition.
“Imagine that a country or a candidate would say entrance to Jews is forbidden. The whole world would stand up in protest, saying this is a racist anti-Semite. A racist like this has no place here among us,” Issawi Frej, a fellow member of Meretz, told Israel Radio.
Netanyahu also risks alienating allies in the United States.
The Israeli leader, whose conservative worldview tends to be in sync with the Republicans on many issues, was widely perceived as endorsing Mitt Romney during a visit to Israel in the 2012 election, contributing to what has become a strained relationship with President Barack Obama.
Although Obama and Netanyahu have tried to patch things up, a warm embrace of Trump could cause a new setback.
Even Netanyahu’s natural allies in the Republican Party have been cool to Trump, who is seen as an outsider challenging the establishment with his unorthodox views. Netanyahu is close friends with Sheldon Adelson, a billionaire supporter of Republican and conservative causes.
Like the other Republican candidates, Trump — whose daughter, Ivanka, converted to Judaism — has long worked to portray himself as a strong supporter of Israel. In a 2013 video endorsing Netanyahu’s re-election, Trump called himself a “big fan of Israel” as Hebrew lettering scrolled below his face.
During the current campaign, Trump’s Republican rivals have questioned his foreign policy bona fides, suggesting he lacks the depth and diplomatic skill to tackle crises in the Mideast and elsewhere. Trump has argued his vast experience brokering business deals qualifies him to negotiate with foreign leaders, and he has cited the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a prime example.
Yet in contrast to other Republican candidates who have been reluctant to criticize Israel, Trump questioned in an AP interview this month whether Israel was committed to the peace process, a concern he said extended to the Palestinians as well.
Though he didn’t lay out specifics, Trump said he’d know within six months of taking office whether he would be able to broker a peace deal, adding that the chances for a durable resolution rest with Israel.
Trump also raised eyebrows among some American Jews last week with an extraordinary appearance at a gathering of Jewish donors, where he was booed after refusing to endorse Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel. The United States, like most of the international community, refuses to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and says the city’s status must be resolved in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
In his address, Trump made several comments that some said promoted Jewish stereotypes.
“I know why you’re not going to support me: you’re not going to support me because I don’t want your money,” Trump said. “You want to control your own politician.”
In another instance, he said, “I’m a negotiator, like you folks.”
Israeli opposition leader Isaac Herzog called Trump’s remarks on Muslims “disgraceful,” but said Israel must still proceed with caution. “Donald Trump can, at the end of the day … become president of the United States,” he said.
Eytan Gilboa, an expert on U.S.-Israeli relations at Israel’s Bar-Ilan University, said Trump’s latest statements about both Jews and Muslims would make him “very difficult to receive.”
He said Trump’s comments about the Jews were offensive to Israelis, and his proposed ban on Muslims brought back painful memories over the treatment of European Jews who were refused entry to the U.S. during World War II. The bitter lessons of Romney’s 2012 visit add to the difficulties.
“I think the strategy will be that he (Netanyahu) will welcome Trump, but he won’t go out of his way like he did with Mitt Romney the last time around,” Gilboa said, adding that Netanyahu may even express “mild reservations” about some of Trump’s positions.
“It’s going to be a tough game to play, and I don’t know how Netanyahu is going to handle it,” he said.
Associated Press writer Josh Lederman in Washington contributed to this report.
Defying President Barack Obama, House Speaker John Boehner announced on Wednesday that he’s invited Israel’s prime minister to stand before Congress and push for new sanctions against its archenemy Iran.
Boehner’s decision to bring Benjamin Netanyahu before a joint meeting of Congress on Feb. 11 seemed to catch the White House by surprise. And it added fuel to a drive by lawmakers from both parties to pass legislation calling for fresh penalties if there is no deal soon to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran.
Barely sworn in, the new Republican-controlled Congress is already on a collision course with Obama over a major foreign policy issue. Obama has threatened to veto any new sanctions legislation, saying it could scuttle ongoing nuclear talks with Iran and heighten the risk of a military showdown.
Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday quoted an unidentified Israeli intelligence official as saying that adding sanctions now “would be like throwing a grenade into the process.”
But Boehner is not backing down. He told a private meeting of GOP lawmakers that Congress would proceed on further penalties against Iran despite Obama’s warning.
“He expects us to stand idly by and do nothing while he cuts a bad deal with Iran,” Boehner said. “Two words: ‘Hell no!’ … We’re going to do no such thing.”
The Democrats’ House leader, Nancy Pelosi of California, strongly disagreed. She said Obama has had diplomatic success in bringing countries together for the current economic sanctions aimed at stopping Iran’s nuclear program. And she said it would be “irresponsible” for Congress to impose new penalties that “could undermine the negotiations and undermine the diplomatic coalition that is there — the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany.”
The White House said Boehner’s invitation also was a breach of diplomatic protocol. Traditionally, no administration would learn about a foreign leader’s plan to visit the United States from the speaker of the House, said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.
Said Boehner: “I don’t believe I am poking anyone in the eye.”
The invitation was a coordinated effort involving Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell with staff discussions beginning last year, according to a senior Republican aide, who spoke only on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to publicly discuss the private talks. Boehner contacted the Israeli ambassador on Jan. 8 to assess Netanyahu’s interest and received a positive response.
Netanyahu stands to gain politically at home from the U.S. visit. He is in a tough fight to win re-election in Israel’s upcoming March vote. Netanyahu’s Likud Party is running behind the main opposition group headed by Yitzhak Herzog’s Labor Party, which has been highlighting rancor in the country’s critical relationship with the United States.
The image of Netanyahu addressing Congress — an infrequent honor for a world leader — could undercut his opposition’s message. At the same time, he risks aggravating the tense relationship he currently has with the Obama administration.
Time could be running out to reach a deal with Iran, which says its nuclear program is peaceful and exists only to produce energy for civilian use. Talks have been extended until July, with the goal of reaching a framework for a deal by the end of March.
Just after Boehner announced that Netanyahu had been invited, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a three-hour hearing on the Iranian nuclear talks and the role of Congress.
Republicans and some Democrats on the committee argued that Iran is playing for time and that the U.S. and its international partners are inching closer to Iran’s negotiating position. But other lawmakers agreed with the administration that it’s best to let the negotiations play out.
Committee chairman Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., is pressing for legislation that would allow Congress to vote on any deal the U.S. and its international partners might reach with Tehran.
“I want these negotiations to be successful … but just stiff-arming (Congress) . and saying, ‘No, we really don’t want you to play a role, we want you to just trust us,’ is totally unacceptable from my standpoint,” Corker said.
Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, the ranking Democrat on the committee, and Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., are pushing legislation that would impose heavier sanctions that would take effect if there’s no deal.
That bill would not impose any new sanctions during the remaining timeline for negotiations. But if there’s no deal, the sanctions that have been eased during the talks would be reinstated and Iran would face new punitive measures.
“Iran is clearly taking steps that can only be interpreted as provocative, yet the administration appears willing to excuse away any connection between these developments and signs of Iran’s bad faith in negotiations,” Menendez said.
Antony Blinken, deputy secretary of state, said new sanctions legislation would not help and could provoke “Iran to walk away from the negotiating table.”
He argued that the talks have halted Iran’s rush toward larger stockpiles of enriched uranium and have led to more intrusive and frequent inspections. Blinken said the existing sanctions are stifling Iran’s economy.
“Iran is well aware that an even sharper sword of Damocles hangs over its head. It needs no further motivation,” he said.
Associated Press writers Andrew Taylor, Donna Cassata, Nedra Pickler and Matthew Lee in Washington, and Dan Perry in Jerusalem contributed to this report.
After feverishly trying to derail the international community’s nuclear deal with Iran in recent weeks, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu now has little choice but to accept an agreement that he has derided as deeply flawed.
Netanyahu believes the six-month deal leaves Iran’s military nuclear capabilities largely intact, while giving Iran relief from painful economic sanctions, undermining negotiations on the next stage. At the same time, Israel’s strongest piece of leverage, the threat of a military strike on Iran, seems to be out of the question despite Netanyahu’s insistence it would remain on the table.
“Today the world became a much more dangerous place because the most dangerous regime in the world made a significant step in obtaining the most dangerous weapons in the world,” Netanyahu told his Cabinet on Sunday, calling the deal a “historic mistake.”
He said Israel was not bound by the agreement, and reiterated Israel’s right to “defend itself by itself,” a veiled reference to a possible military strike against Iran.
Netanyahu has spent years warning the world against the dangers of a nuclear-armed Iran, calling it an existential threat due to Iranian references to Israel’s destruction, its support of hostile militant groups on Israel’s borders and its development of missiles capable of reaching Israel and beyond.
Israel also believes that a nuclear-armed Iran will provide militant groups like Lebanon’s Hezbollah an “umbrella” of protection that will embolden them to carry out attacks.
As momentum for a deal built the past week, Netanyahu delivered speech after speech and held meeting after meeting, urging the world to seek better terms from Iran. Last week, he hosted French President Francois Hollande, then rushed off to Moscow for talks with President Vladimir Putin in a last-ditch attempt to alter the agreement.
Netanyahu had said that any deal must ensure that Iran’s enriching of uranium — a key step toward making a nuclear bomb — must end. He also said all enriched material should be removed from the Islamic Republic, and called for the demolition of a plutonium reactor under construction.
But after the deal was announced, it was clear that Netanyahu made little headway. While freezing parts of Iran’s enrichment capabilities, it will leave others, including the centrifuges that are used for enrichment, intact. The deal relies heavily on Iranian goodwill, a still-to-be-defined system of international inspections and the continued pain of sanctions that remain in place.
Yoel Guzansky, who used to monitor the Iranian nuclear program for Israel’s National Security Council, said a deal that would satisfy Israel was unlikely from the outset due to differing “red lines” between Israel and the U.S.
While Israel sees any enrichment as a cause for concern, the U.S. was willing to tolerate nuclear development as long as it was unable to produce weapons, said Guzansky, who is now an analyst at the Institute for National Security Studies, a Tel Aviv think tank.
“It’s a bad agreement because of what it symbolizes,” he said. “It means Iran is getting an acceptance, a signature that it’s a legitimate country.” Even worse for Israel, he added, the agreement amounts to “acceptance of Iran as a nuclear threshold state.”
U.S. officials said Sunday’s deal was just a first step and further negotiations aim for a final agreement that would prevent any threat from Iran’s nuclear program.
They said the relief from sanctions was minimal and that the most biting economic measures, including sanctions on Iran‘s vital oil industry, remained in place and more could be imposed if Iran fails to follow through.
Guzansky predicted that despite the tough rhetoric, Israel would move quickly to repair relations with the U.S., its closest and most important ally, and do everything possible to influence the outcome of the world’s final-status talks with Iran.
That could include speeches, threats of military action or behind-the-scenes diplomacy. Israel is not a direct participant in the talks but remains in close contact with many of the negotiators.
The relationship with the U.S. will be critical as Israel conducts peace talks with the Palestinians in the coming months. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who is mediating the talks, has set an April target date for reaching an agreement, and there is widespread speculation that the Americans will step up their involvement as the deadline approaches.
Guzansky also said Israel’s main card — military action — appears to be out of the question right now.
“How can Israel, after the entire international community sat with Iran, shook hands with Iran and signed an agreement, operate independently?” he said. “It will be seen as someone who sabotages 10 years of trying to get Iran to the table and trying to get a deal.”
Enrichment is at the heart of the dispute because it can be used for peaceful purposes or for producing a nuclear bomb. Tehran insists its nuclear program is for civilian usage such as energy production and cancer treatment.
Uranium at low levels of enrichment, up to 20 percent, is used in research or generating electricity. Uranium must be enriched to a far higher level — above 90 percent — to produce a warhead. So far, Iran is not known to have produced any at that level, but Israel argues that the technology for doing so is the same as that for enriching at lower levels.
Under the compromise, enrichment would be capped at the 5 percent level, and Iran’s stockpile of 20 percent uranium would be “neutralized,” effectively preventing it from reaching weapons-grade level. Also construction on the plutonium reactor is to be suspended. The White House also promised “intrusive monitoring” of Iranian nuclear facilities.
Israel says any enriched uranium in Iranian hands is potentially dangerous, since its centrifuges can quickly convert it to weapons grade. Israel believes that Iran’s ability to keep its nuclear infrastructure intact will allow it to can quickly resume the program if the later talks fail.
“Iran is a threshold nuclear country,” said Netanyahu’s Cabinet minister for intelligence affairs, Yuval Steinitz. “So far it was completely against U.N. security resolutions, and now it gets some kind of recognition at least for the next six months as a threshold nuclear country.”
In all, about 250 kilograms (550 pounds) of highly enriched uranium is needed to make a weapon. Iran already has about 200 kilograms (440 pounds) of enriched uranium.
Ephraim Asculai, a former official at Israel’s Atomic Energy Commission, said Sunday’s agreement was not all bad for Israel, since it capped enrichment activity and slowed construction of the plutonium reactor. But he said Iran’s ability to “break out” and make a nuclear explosive device remained intact, perhaps in as little as four to six months once a decision is made.
“The good part of the deal is that enrichment stops at the present level and that is also some of the bad news because enrichment does go on,” he said.
Federman is AP’s news editor based in Jerusalem and has covered Israel since 2003.
France’s foreign minister says marathon six-power talks with Iran have failed to reach a deal meant to cap some of Tehran’s nuclear program.
Laurent Fabius says the talks, which ended early Sunday, managed to narrow differences without eliminating them.
He says there are “still questions to be dealt with” in future rounds.
The talks are focused on a deal that will start limiting Iranian nuclear programs that could be used for weapons, in exchange for suspending some sanctions on Iran’s economy.
Tehran says it does not want atomic arms.Chances of that appeared to diminish as the day went on.
A Western diplomat in Geneva for the talks told The Associated Press it appeared that a new round of negotiations would be needed to agree on all points of a startup deal meant to lead to a comprehensive agreement ensuring that Tehran’s nuclear work remains peaceful.
He said preparations were being made by both sides for an announcement later in the day of a new meeting within a few weeks. He said earlier that the French were holding out for conditions on the Iranians tougher than those agreed to by the U.S. and France’s other negotiating partners, diminishing hopes of a done deal Saturday.
However, the talks in Geneva were still underway, with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, and foreign ministers from Britain, France, Germany and Russia meeting with one another, and some of them with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Baodong Li also arrived Friday evening.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius spoke of “several points that … we’re not satisfied with compared to the initial text,” telling France-Inter Radio his nation does not want to be part of a “con game.”
He did not specify, but his comments suggested France thought a final draft of any first-step deal was too favorable to Iran, echoing concerns raised by Israel and several prominent U.S. legislators.
The French position was confirmed by another Western diplomat. Both gave no specifics and demanded anonymity because they were not authorized to comment on the diplomatic maneuvering.
Iranian state TV strongly criticized the French position, calling France “Israel’s representatives at the talks.”
The United States and the five other powers in negotiations with Iran aimed at freezing its nuclear program normally keep disputes among themselves, so the public show of French disagreement was unusual.
Optimism about an interim agreement had been high when the talks were extended for a third day on Saturday and raised to a ministerial level.
Fabius’ remarks by telephone from Geneva were the first to provide some specifics on the obstacles at the talks.
Fabius mentioned differences over Iran’s Arak reactor southeast of Tehran, which could produce enough plutonium for several nuclear weapons a year once it goes online. He also said there was disagreement over efforts to limit Iran’s uranium enrichment to levels that would require substantial further enriching before they could be used as the fissile core of a nuclear weapon.
French Foreign Ministry spokesman Romain Nadal pointed to “rather large cohesion” among the negotiators and said France wanted “the international community to see a serious change in the climate” of talks with Iran.
“There have been years of talks that have led to nothing,” Nadal said, alluding to the need for tough terms on Iran.
Iran, which denies any interest in nuclear weapons, currently runs more than 10,000 centrifuges that have created tons of fuel-grade material that can be further enriched to arm nuclear warheads.
It also has nearly 440 pounds (200 kilograms) of higher-enriched uranium in a form that can be turned into weapons much more quickly. Experts say 550 pounds (250 kilograms) of that 20 percent-enriched uranium are needed to produce a single warhead.
Iran says it expects Arak, the plutonium producing reactor, to be completed and go online sometime next year. It would need additional facilities to reprocess the plutonium into weapons-grade material, and the U.N’s nuclear agency monitoring Iran’s atomic activities says it has seen no evidence of such a project.
Fabius said Iran is opposed to suspending work on Arak while nuclear negotiations go on in an attempt to reach a first-stage agreement, then a comprehensive final deal limiting Tehran’s atomic work. He said that “for us” suspension was absolutely necessary, but it was unclear if that meant France was alone in seeing the issue as non-negotiable or whether he was speaking for the rest of the negotiating group.
Iran also is being asked to blend down “a great part of this stock at 20 percent, to 5 percent,” Fabius said. Uranium enriched to 5 percent is considered reactor fuel grade and upgrading it to weapons-level takes much longer than for 20 percent enriched uranium.
Fabius suggested that the six powers were looking for an Iranian commitment to cap future enrichment at 5 percent.
“We are hoping for a deal, but for the moment there are still issues that have not been resolved,” he said.
Signaling that the talks could end without agreement, British Foreign Secretary William Hague spoke of unresolved issues and told reporters “there is no fixed time for us to reach a conclusion.”
Any agreement would be a breakthrough after nearly a decade of mostly inconclusive talks, but would only be the start of a long process to reduce Iran’s potential ability to produce nuclear arms, with no guarantee of ultimate success.
Kerry and his European counterparts arrived in Geneva on Friday with the talks at a critical stage following a full day of negotiations Thursday, and he said some obstacles remained in the way of any agreement offering sanctions reductions for nuclear concessions.
The presence of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and the Chinese deputy foreign minister provided fresh hope for at least an interim deal.
But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted Friday that any agreement in the making was a “bad deal” that gave Iran a pass by offering to lift sanctions for cosmetic concessions that he said left intact Tehran’s nuclear weapons-making ability. Israel is strongly critical of any deal that even slightly lifts sanctions unless Iran is totally stripped of technology that can make nuclear arms.
Asked about Netanyahu’s criticism, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Friday “any critique of the deal is premature” because an agreement has not been reached.
The White House later said President Barack Obama called Netanyahu to update him on the ongoing talks and that Obama affirmed he’s still committed to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. The White House said Obama and Netanyahu would stay in close contact.
On Friday, Kerry tempered reports of progress, warning of “important gaps” that must be overcome. But Lavrov’s deputy, Sergei Ryabov, was quoted then as saying that Moscow expects them to produce a “lasting result expected by the international community.”
The talks primarily focus on the size and output of Iran’s enrichment program, which can create both reactor fuel and weapons-grade material suitable for a nuclear bomb. Iran insists it is pursuing only nuclear energy, medical treatments and research, but the U.S. and its allies fear that Iran could turn this material into the fissile core of nuclear warheads.
Associated Press writers Jamey Keaten in Paris; Ali Akbar Dareini in Tehran, Iran; and George Jahn in Geneva contributed.
President Barack Obama is fighting back against Republicans who claim he is not fully supporting Israel, saying the efforts by his opponents are playing politics with the volatile middle east.
Still, Obama is treading politically-sensitive waters Sunday when he tried to defend his differences with the Jewish state over Iran’s nuclear program in a speech before Israel’s primary lobbying group in America.
He also faces a tense meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House on Monday.
“The President is walking a political tightrope,” political scientist Andrew Gallimore tells Capitol Hill Blue. “Anything perceived as less than 100 percent support for Israel is dangerous.”
Obama insists he backs Israel without hesitation and has done so consistently during his time in office, but he does admit policy differences. In a magazine interview last week, he claimed his Republican rivals ignore that record.
Israel insists it has the right to, and will, take out Iran’s nuclear power plant if it feels the country is using it to develop weapons.
Obama urges caution and that is the kind of disagreement with Israel that can get a President in hot water.